The relational dimension at the heart of transformational change
Image by Joe Beck (unsplash.com)
Megan Seneque is an honorary research fellow with the Susanna Wesley Foundation. In her latest paper produced for the Susanna Wesley Foundation, Megan reflects on many years of relational work in social and collaborative processes of change. This conversation article highlights some key features of that paper, and provides a link to the full paper.
Megan’s work in facilitating and enabling social processes and transformational change extends across numerous countries, contexts and decades. Through the process of reflection on her own global experience in her paper, Megan reflects on her extensive experience and explores what is required to enable transformational change and facilitate different forms of social organisation for transformative action. She shines a light on both the pattern of transformational change as well as the dispositions and capabilities of those leading the process who enable this pattern to be released. This is an approach which integrates spiritual practice into social process in order to allow for the transformation of relationships and the release of systemic change.
Megan engages with concepts and insights from Theory U, the Presencing Institute, and other holistic, interdisciplinary approaches to transformational change and its relational aspects. Her work supports the view that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model or methodology to support transformational change; this is in part because of the way change processes themselves impact both our ‘ways of knowing’ and our relationships with each other, with the natural world, and with God. This work – beginning with conversation rather than certainty – cannot therefore be outcome-based. She writes,
“While the path of transactional change can be ‘managed’, the transformational path is one of structuring or designing in order to allow for emergence and creative responses at the level of the personal and the social. This path can only be enabled or facilitated, not managed or directed to a fixed outcome. The transformational process needs to be focused around shared practices and initiatives in order to promote transformative action in the world and to create a future that is just, prosperous and sustainable. However, this is not an ‘outcomes-driven’ approach, since the very nature of the transformational processes influences the concrete practices and relationships, through which transformative action in the world becomes possible.”
In her paper, Megan explores seven key aspects that make up what she terms a pattern of transformation. Each is examined through accounts of her experience and a reflection. She looks at:
- Intention – eliciting a shared guiding purpose
- Discovery – experiencing the system through accompaniment
- Conversion – a radical shift in ways of thinking, seeing and being
- Presence – being fully present, open to discerning emerging possibilities
- Generation – of new meaning, with attentiveness to dynamics of power
- Learning by doing – through experimentation in real contexts
- Sustainability – building personal and organisational capability in communities of practice
By highlighting the crucial and inevitable element of uncertainty involved in transformational change, Megan Seneque also surfaces how power dynamics and discomfort with ambiguity can attempt to bypass the deeper process. The relationally-skilled “mastery of the facilitator”, therefore, is in accompanying people through unpredictability in a context-specific way, and at a balanced pace.